Letters for June 27, 2015
Don’t blame budget woes on employees
This letter is in response to the June 18 story titled “Council approves union pay hike.”
In this story different council members chose to complain about how the county will pay for negotiated collective bargaining agreements for public workers represented by Hawaii Government Employees Association in bargaining units 2, 3 and 4. Council members whined that, “We (the employers) do a horrible job … negotiating these contracts,” yet they admit that the increases for employees were anticipated but not budgeted. Huh? With this curious admission, the quoted council members attempted to put the blame on the backs of the workers and their union for seeking pay increases.
Well, it’s easy to try and lay the blame for the council’s budget challenges on the employees, who day in and day out provide the Kauai community with necessary and often overlooked services that keep government running. These employees include those that serve the council. Stating that these raises are costing the county too much, one council member actually suggested “We may have to say no to pay raises in the future if we want a sustainable budget.” Meaning: if you work for government, you work for wages that won’t keep up with the rising cost of living and don’t expect better; yet we want you to do more services for less.
We are tired of hearing this same old song from elected officials who can misspend county funds in a variety of ways, but begrudge employees a small pay increase. For an individual in bargaining unit 3, made up of largely clerical employees, the median pay is approximately $38,000 a year – which means that a 4 percent pay increase will (before taxes and escalating medical premiums) result in approximately $63 more in each paycheck. Nobody will be getting rich thanks to this pay increase.
These comments by council members are off base and insulting to the many hard working middle class (and tax paying) employees of Kauai County. We deserve better than so-called leaders who seem to shrink away from making tough decisions and instead blame their employees for the ills of the county.
Hawaii Government Employees Association
Chock right on manager study
A huge mahalo to Councilman Mason Chock for bringing the county-manager system to the attention of our citizens and to The Garden Island for reporting on it — “Council to study county manager system,” June 24.
Councilman Chock’s quote in TGI was so accurate as he said, “Plan would create more accountability, remove politics from decisions.” That and so much more as a fact check of successful municipalities around the world using it would show.
One of the paragraphs about the system in TGI needs some additional information. It said, “Under a County Manager system the role of mayor WOULD (emphasis added) become largely ceremonial or completely eliminated and the council would hire a professional manager to carry out the executive functions of running government operations.”
The role of the mayor COULD be as outlined but in many cities the mayor is still elected, sits as the chair of the council, with 6 other elected council members. The mayor may make and second motions and shall have a voice and vote in all its proceedings. He shall be the official head of the county for all ceremonial purposes. He shall have the primary but not the exclusive responsibility for interpreting the policies, programs and needs of the county government to the people, and when required, inform the people of any change in policy or programs.
Yes, a lot of powers are given to a highly qualified manager but the beauty of this system is (1) it is successfully in operation worldwide and (2) it is completely flexible in that its structure can be adapted to whatever the citizens and those elected need. Potential problems can be addressed before the system is put in use and thus can be adjusted accordingly.
Is this system perfect — no system is perfect? But with the myriad of problems that have proliferated on this Island for so long (and continue to accelerate) isn’t it far better to at least try another system rather than to keep expecting better results from a failed one?